Young entrepreneurs have it easy. Twenty or even just ten years ago, the infrastructure to support startups the way it can now simply didn’t exist. Just this week, the New York Times published a front-page story about Amazon’s massive cloud-computing footprint. Just think, technology startups that didn’t have their own servers would need to lay out many thousands of dollars just to buy a single server — and that’s not even counting the upkeep and management of the equipment.
Let’s do a little time travel and consider what else we take for granted that our parents and grandparents didn’t have when they were starting up.
- Office-supply superstores: When you wanted to pick up a gross of pens or seventeen bulletin boards, you frequented the small, local office supply store and paid a premium price, or tried to find a wholesale office supply company that would be willing to deal with your small orders. Costs were high either way and nothing was available immediately. Today we walk into OfficeMax or Staples and grab whatever we want, including large plastic barrels of peanut-butter filled pretzels! How good is that?
- In-office design capabilities: Not that many years ago, but before we were born, there was an entire typesetting industry that charged significant amounts of money to make your brochures, contracts, order forms. If you wanted to tackle this yourself, you could pick up some Letraset letter sheets. They provided letters in various fonts and sizes and you would draw lines with a non-repro blue pencil and line up the right letter in the right spot for every single letter. And get them all straight.
- Now, thanks to innovators like the late Steve Jobs, our computers can rock out the basics in no time. Though, it’s still smart to hire a professional for anything fancy.
- Free communications tools: Want to get a proposal to a client in NYC when you’re in Detroit? No biggie. Email it to him. Years ago, businesses had one option: the Post Office. Fed-Ex was a great leap forward. Fax machines were once cutting edge.
- Information: Years ago, journalists had a secret weapon: in-house reference libraries where librarians would look up facts. Of course, it would take a while and the info might be limited, but it helped. When 9/11 happened, journalists all over the world could immediately access everything they might want to know about the twin towers — age, height, number of stories and photos, just by using the Internet. As an entrepreneur, if you want to explore your competitors, you don’t have to call them pretending to be a potential customer, you can just visit their websites and get product info, prices and sometimes even customer lists.
- Expert insight: Want to understand something better? There’s a blog for that. Have insights you’d like to share? Write a blog post for that. Books took a year or more to get published, so the only current information could be found in magazines and newspapers. Now, just go online and find not just answers but lots of answers.
- Related: 3 Tips to a Speedy Launch
- Connections: With LinkedIn, Twitter etc., you have so many ways to reach out to people who can help you or just understand what you’re going through. On a Friday afternoon when you’re looking at another long weekend working, mention it on Facebook and get instant sympathy — or instant encouragement. You can build relationships with people you may never meet. And you can certainly grow your business beyond what was possible only a generation ago.
So when your parents or grandparents — or anyone else from one or two generations back — starts telling you how lucky you are, just agree. They’re right.
What recent innovations have you used in starting your company? Let us know in the comments section.